When to Eat the Right Workout Proteins

Little known fact: Some meats are better eaten pre-workout, some better post. We serve you the truth.

Countertops are covered in whey protein jugs, fridges are full of chicken, beef, turkey, pork, fish, and dairy. You’re trying to build muscle mass, and you’re off to a good start. All of that protein will help repair muscles that are used and torn during workouts, but you shouldn’t simply open the fridge door, reach in, and eat whatever protein your hand lands on first. Some proteins are better pre-workout; some are better post-workout.

“Before a workout, your body doesn’t need as much protein as after a workout,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet and nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs. “Use dairy, such as yogurt or milk, before a workout. The casein and whey will work together for slow and fast protein digestion.” If you want to sink your teeth into some meat prior to working out, stick with white meat. “Less fat will keep you from feeling weighed down,” says Blatner.

Immediately after a workout, you should drink a whey protein shake for a quick hit, then head home and chow down on red meat. “ Extra fats in red meat, like conjugated linoleic acid, may help lower body fat,” says Blatner. That said do keep in mind that it’s key to eat a blend of proteins throughout the week. “Each protein source has subtle differences in amino acid profile, which is why it’s so important to get a variety,” says Blatner. Eat fish, such as wild salmon, scallops, or sardines, instead of red meat for a day or two each week.

Having all of the essential building blocks for a solid, protein-heavy diet is great, but you can get even more out of your meals by knowing what to eat when.

Photos by Wavebreak Media Ltd. / Corbis